Housing starts here plunge, study finds
Housing starts in Pittsburgh plunged 37.3 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. The drop in activity was driven by a significant drop in apartment starts coupled with a downturn in single family permits that is attributable to weather and market conditions, according to Tall Timber Group based in Ross. Total residential starts fell to 1,813 during the first six months of 2014. With another 2,000 units in the multi-family pipeline, Tall Timber expects permits for attached and multi-family units will still top 2,000 units for the full year.
• Koppers Holdings said second-quarter income and sales plunged on lower volumes and prices for its chemicals, and reduced availability of the lumber used in its railroad crossties. The Downtown-based company said net income plummeted to $1.6 million, or 8 cents a share, from $14.4 million, or 69 cents a share a year ago while sales fell by 4 percent to $356.8 million from $370.9 million a year ago.
Adjusted net income, excluding special items such as closing several plants in The Netherlands and China, was $8.1 million, or 39 cents per share, down from $14.7 million, or 70 cents per share a year ago. Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 61 cents per share and sales of $391.3 million.
Walter Turner, president and CEO, said Koppers is looking for further ways to slash costs including consolidating some North American chemical production at a facility in Illinois, which would result in eliminating jobs at a plant in Follansbee, W.Va.
Separately, Koppers named Michael Zugay as chief financial officer effective Aug. 18. Mr. Zugay was previously co-chief executive and chief financial officer for Michael Baker Corp. He succeeds Leroy Ball, who became Koppers’ chief operating officer in May.
• TreeHouse Foods came in on the high side of analyst expectations in the second quarter, beating last year’s earnings per share by 29 percent. The Illinois-based private-label food company makes soup at the former Heinz plant on the city’s North Side.
Net income rose to $22 million from $19 million in the second quarter a year ago. Earnings per share were 57 cents, 14 percent higher than the 50 cents earned per share last year. Adjusted for one-time events, earnings per share were 84 cents, up from 65 cents the year before, and just ahead of analyst expectations of 83 cents per share as reported by Thomson Financial.
Sales in the second quarter beat analyst expectations at $628 million, a 19 percent increase over $526 million in the second quarter of 2013.
Because of recent acquisitions, which the company says are part of a pivot toward organic and natural foods, TreeHouse revised its outlook for annual adjusted earnings per share upward by 10 to 15 cents.
Auto, student loans see jump in June
The Federal Reserve says that overall consumer credit rose by $18.3 billion in June to $3.17 trillion total. Auto and student loans drove much of the gains, up $16.2 billion. Credit card debt increased by a slight $2.1 billion in June.
Ranking report finds on-time flights down
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that among airlines reporting figures, 71.8 percent of flights arrived on time in June, down from 76.9 percent the month before and 71.9 percent in June 2013. Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines had the best on-time ratings, with Delta leading the biggest carriers. Regional airlines Envoy and ExpressJet and Southwest Airlines were at the bottom of the rankings.